Thursday, 31 December 2009

Chez nous

We are home from beautiful, wild Brittany. We are so well and rested. Here are some of the things we did:

We made turtles in the sand on windswept beaches.

We celebrated ten years since our first date.

We drew in the sand on beaches of wild beauty.

We spent evenings home drawing and cooking and knitting.

Moules et frites was popular for the older male of the group.

We visited towns of beauty and history.

We loved and laughed and found our joy again.

We went to the end of the earth, literally, at Cap du Raz in Finistere.

We smiled and told each other we loved each other every day.

We watched our shadows and saw how tall we are in Winter.

We end the year back in our lovely home and ready for a New Year filled with joy and peace.
May your 2010 be all you need it to be.
I dedicate this blog today to the amazing Flora, my dear friend Pat's Auntie, who died earlier this week at the age of 102. She was an inspiration and leaves a hole in the life of one I love very much.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

We're off!

Five years ago we spent Christmas away from home. We spent three weeks firstly in Canada and then visiting friends in Detroit.

We spent time with good, good people in weather unlike any I had experienced before. It was kinda cold!

Tomorrow we leave Colchester for another Christmas away from home. This time heading to a converted barn outside Quimper in Brittany, North West France. This time there are three of us.
We have plans for lots of fresh air and good food with minimal Christmas madness and consumerism. We want stories in front of the fire. Bowls of Breton cider and seafood stews.
And time together to rest and revive ourselves.
I have packed sacks of books and heaps of knitting.
I'm just home from teaching this evening and now have to pack but I'm psyched enough not to need much sleep. Hopefully I can get some sleep on the ferry tomorrow night.
I'll be back on 29th December and before I go I want to wish anyone that reads my little sparrow of a blog a Christmas filled with joy and laughter and those you love most.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Gratitude Tree

Inspired by some wonderful blogs from across the pond we have begun a Gratitude Tree. Each evening that we have dinner at home we each write down something for which we are grateful and hang it on the tree, which sits on the dining table. The leaves are cut from watercolour paper that Frank has painted during one of his art sessions, tied with rough string and hung from a clipped branch of our plum tree. All of us, including Severine, contribute and Frank has become the one to remind us about it and to bring us a pencil each before we start dinner. It reminds us each day, even when we might be feeling low, that we have much for which we are grateful.
Here is a selection of our leaves, I'll let you decide who you think said each one!
  • Our warm house
  • Mummy, Loumi and trains
  • Clare Clare's teeny tiny cars
  • Blueberries
  • Music and crisp Winter days
  • Swings and all the things I did with Frank this morning
  • My wicked English family
  • My friends and my white woollen socks
  • My international family: Budd (alien), Frank (mostly human), Severine (French) and Rufus (bear)
  • Severine and her friendship
  • Bread, cheese and dried pork products
  • My family and friends
  • Good health and smiley faces
  • Big Barn Farm
  • Umbrellas
  • Love and pizza
  • Insulin
  • The zoo and ice cream
  • Crisps
  • My bike
  • The very big oven in the kitchen
  • My goldfish napkin holder
  • Autumn sunshine

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Living in interesting times

We begin with one from the archives. Frank, at 6 months, loved mashed mango. He loved it so much he even took to wearing it. He is now three years and six months old and has a fulsome list of what he will and won't eat and how it should be presented. I give you Frank Budd, Emperor of Prettygate!

OK, onto the news.

We have some big changes here. It feels big to me anyway as I am soon to enter the state of full-time Mum. I approached my lovely boss, Haven, last Monday to ask whether it was possible to be relieved of my teaching and assessing duties for the coming year. It has become increasingly clear to Budd and I that we are simply too stretched at present and that we need to open up some space in our lives to allow the healing from the past year to actually take place. Budd is a fantastic dad to Frank but being a stay-at-home Dad doesn't come naturally and he is worn out by his long days at home alone with a three year old. I want to savour the last year and a bit with my boy until he goes to school and have teacher training, less sensitive ears and a lot of patience on my side.

A decision was made that if I could step back at work then we would, as a family, be more centred and Team Budd would move forward with healthy strides rather than the lurching we feel happens at the moment.

All went well and I finish teaching next week and will assess the work I have set but then be on a kind of extended sabbatical. I am so grateful that doors will be left open for me when I want to return. Very grateful.

Frank is considered to have the very highest level of special needs and needs people around him that are aware of these. Outwardly he looks fantastic. He is lively, funny, loving and contrary, sometimes all in the same minute. He has T1D. It does not define him. It is, however, an integral part of who he is. It can never be forgotten. It can be exhausting enough bringing up children and three is a magical and challenging age. Add T1D to this and you have a lively cocktail.

This was brought home to us again at midnight last night when I went in to check Frank just before turning in for the night to find he had vomited all over his covers and fallen back asleep. Bedding was duly stripped and the washing machine fired up. At half four Frank came padding into our room, climbed on our bed and coughed a bit before being lavishly sick again. More sheets were stripped, a trip to the tumble dryer in the garage paid and the washing machine fired up again. Frank was given water and his blood sugar levels taken. He was at 17.4. Higher than expected in the night but not so high as to need hospitalisation. We left him on our bed sleeping whilst Budd dealt with all the washing and emptying of bowls and I read about how best to deal with vomiting in juveniles with T1D.

We have been told that vomiting more than twice in 24 hours warrants hospitalisation. But our guts (remember my belief in trusting the parental gut-feeling?) told us to hang in there and keep him at home. He was taking in water and keeping it down and his blood sugar was being tested regularly and was fine.
When he woke at nine the next morning he was hungry, or rather, "humry" as he says, and had two bowls of cereal with goats' milk, walnut toast with almond butter and ginger tea. He tended towards grazing throughout the day rather than having three meals and has been active but pale and tired too.

The NCT Open House I was running was cancelled by e. mail and then a note stuck on the front door to tell people we were possibly infectious and to give us a wide berth.

Frank was in bed by just after six and asleep by seven having had lots of great stories such as "A Squash and a Squeeze" and "The Smartest Giant in Town" read to him.
At eight he woke crying, all sweaty and wanting me. We had a cuddle and I decided to bring him downstairs to sleep on the sofa with us. I am writing this and Budd is e.mailing friends to let them know we will be away at Christmas. Gardeners' World is on and Frank has drifted off happily.

In some measure this goes against my ideas of quiet, electronic free evenings to help a child wind down and rest fully. However, I have very strong memories of feeling so much better having the buzz of my family near me and falling so much easier into the warm arms of sleep when they were engaged purposefully and calmly in something whilst I was resting. Especially when I was ill. I feel better having him here to keep an eye on anyway.

We also have a holiday planned.

A summer break didn't really happen for us and we feel a bit broken from the past thirteen months. Our confidence to travel has been badly knocked but we are seeing a return to form emerging slowly and to celebrate this we have booked three weeks (Count them! Three weeks!) in Brittany. We will be staying in a converted barn and spending our days walking, running about on beaches, eating gallettes, seeking out cafes and getting healthier by the day. Our evenings will be spent reading and knitting by the fire and I fully intend to continue my tradition of Budd and I reading "A Christmas Carol" stave by stave to each other, with the final stave being on Christmas Eve.

I am so excited to be travelling with my little family. I love them so.

And so I end this post with a quotation from Tiny Tim:

God Bless us, everyone!

Groovy Grotto

We love the Growing Together garden centre just up the road from us and really enjoyed the C.S.Lewis inspired grotto they created with the huge Aslan the lion, Mr Tumnus and Mr and Mrs Beaver in their home last Christmas.

Everything was made from green or recycled materials and we were full of anticipation to see their choice for this Christmas as we went along this afternoon for tea and cake after Frank finished at pre-school.
We were not disappointed. It was just wonderful and so lovely to see my little boy enjoy the wonder and spectacle of it as well as see it through his new eyes. The theme this year is Jack and the Beanstalk and the story is told as you walk through an enchanted forest. The Gingerbread Man is there as is Squirrel Nutkin and there are even real geese with golden eggs above them.

We rounded the visit off with peppermint tea and cake in the seating area. Then Frank and I went back into the enchanted forest for a final visit to all the characters and the geese whilst Daddy finished his tea.

I will be back tomorrow with news of all kinds.

Things are changing here on Waltons' Mountain!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A Chocolate Tutorial or Gone in 60 Seconds

A recipe from my lovely friend and all-round guru, Fiona, has become a firm favourite in this house.
We love our dark chocolate and even the littlest one is allowed it. I won't let him have milk chocolate whilst I can wield any control over his diet as I can argue that he at least gets iron with the dark stuff.
I apologise for the hazy pictures but I am still grapppling with my camera.
We start by melting some dark chocolate (at least 70%) in a mug. I do this in the microwave but over a bowl of steaming hot water is good too. To this add some extra-virgin coconut oil, a teaspon or two is enough to add gloss and nutrition, and mix it in. Then I added about four drops of essential lemon oil. Orange works well too. Just chocolate flavour is also divine, needless to say.
Stir and then mix in enough sunflower seeds that they are all coated.
Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto baking paper and leave to cool. When set they can be stored in the fridge or the freezer.
To eat them merely apply the necessary quantity to your face!

As Frank would say: Yummy Yummy in my tummy!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Coffee Culture brings good times

Recent trips our local mecca of good coffee have resulted in some special memories. There was the Thursday that my beloved and I cycled into town, having deposited the young one at Holly Corner, his pre-school, to enjoy a gingerbread latte and a muffin. We had had such a hectic few days before hand that we had agreed to ignore each other and read. I kept up my side of the bargain but Budd just sat and watched me read. He assured me that he found it most relaxing. So did I for the most part although I was on occasion unnerved by his unblinking stare whenever I glanced up.
Then earlier this week my parents visited and I took them into town for afernoon tea. Dad and Frank are slap bang in the middle of a huge mutual fan club and love being together.

Dad did his rather sweet Woolly Mammoth impersonation.

Mum sat looking chic and relaxed as the boys played, laughing at Dad's antics as she has done for the 47 years of their marriage.
There is something about being somewhere warm that smells of cinnamon and coffee, with chatter and the buzzing of beans being ground as a backdrop, that brings a sense of ceremony and celebration to a cup of tea or coffee.
Colchester has embraced this and young and old can be seen all over town sipping and chatting. Frank even had a "foamy milk" yesterday in a cafe. He is three and is already aware of sprinkling cinnamon on his milk.
I love this.
He is very much a nature boy. Homemade food, low sugar, wholefoods, garden and nature play and then Babyccino!
Embracing all that is good from the past and the present can only equip him for the future.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

High Noon in Prettygate

Whilst I was preparing yummy carrot, curry and ginger soup from "Nourishing Traditions" my little family were all busy making our home cosy and clean for the days and weeks and months ahead.
Neko Case was playing very loudly in the kitchen, the door from the dining room to the garden was flung wide open, the air was mild and the sun was warm.
Budd was mowing his hair in preparation for mowing the grass. Isn't he beautiful?

Frank was fascinated (as always) by this and took a break from his hectic log loading schedule to watch. Isn't he also beautiful?
And Dobby the House Elf, sorry, Severine, was vacuuming and cleaning upstairs. She may even get promoted to an actual room of her own rather than the cupboard under the stairs if she carries on like this. She also whipped up a chicory and orange salad to go with the soup, bread and cheese. It goes without saying that she's beautiful too, being French and still in her twenties!
The soup was great. Really warming flavours. Frank wouldn't eat it but he's three and tells us frequently that he only likes to eat "just one thing" at a time. He then proceeds to have walnut bread, butter, yoghurt and an apple. They're fickle these pre-schoolers.

I will be back with more news soon as there is much to tell this week.
Life is moving on.
We are full of joy today and long may it continue.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Cooking with my boy

Picking and washing our grapes for making juice.
Joyful at being allowed to lick the flapjack pan clean!

Getting the frozen peas ready to add to the stir fry.

Fuzzy action shot of Frank slicing mushrooms and talking to me at the same time.
Since he was knee high to the proverbial grasshopper I have involved Frank in the preparation of our family's food. He is particularly fond of cutting up mushrooms, although he won't then eat them, and does extremely well making biscuits and flapjacks. He cleans out the bowls for me which cuts down on my washing up time. He also helps with weighing and measuring for the bread machine or for any bread we make by hand.
I remember cooking and baking with my Mum as I was growing up. I loved making things like peppermint creams and butterfly cakes, things that didn't help Mum at all towards to evening meal, but she patiently let me make the things I really wanted to. As Frank gets older I am sure he will want to make certain things and I hope that I will have the foresight to just encourage him and enjoy those special moments in the kitchen together. Only when he is grown up will I know of my efforts have paid off. It feels right and there is something so full of family connection in making the food together that we will then eat together. I don't believe children can ever be too young to be involved in this.
What did you cook or bake as a child?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Getting Crafty

After visiting Chilford Vineyard and the Patchwork exhibition at the weekend with my fab friend Pat, I ran up this little cushion cover for Frank from one of the many small pieces being sold. When I was putting him to bed the evening I made it I explained that I was going to make him a special cushion for snuggling on the sofa and resting on in the camper van. His little face lit up and so I left the completed cushion on the end of his bed for him to discover when he woke in the morning.
He came running in with it the following day and insisted on having it near him when he ate his morning porridge. It was covered in drips of oatmeal in seconds. I was momentarily dismayed but then swiftly got over myself as I reflected on what I had actually expected from the love match between a cushion and a porridge-fiend of a three year old!

There has also been a blanket from the book "Linen,Cotton, Wool" by Akiko Mano. In the book her minimalist blanket is all white and light. Mine is more suited to a lumberjack and family but has proven hugely popular among the whole family, Severine included. I found an old hospital blanket in the summerhouse and some fantastic soft brushed cotton at Franklins in Colchester. Vintage buttons will be sewn on each end to fix the two layers rather than the recommended bullion stitch. I have yet to do the buttons, as the blanket seems to be in constant use and so I can't get near it. It is true that it is cold here at the moment and we need our comfort. Maybe it's just right as it is...

I have also completed my Beaded Pulse Warmer from "Knitting Classic Style" by Veronik Avery.
I loved making this and will really enjoy wearing it I am sure.

That's the incomparable Eddy Merckx in the background there. He may have won the Tour de France five times and be one of the most amazing athletes ever, but can he knit a Beaded Pulse Warmer?
I think not.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Bat Sev to the rescue

There is a lot going on up here on Muffin Moon Mountain. I am on fever watch as Frank lies sleeping in my bed. Type 1 and fevers do not a happy marriage make. This will be a short post and I've had no time for Bench Monday either.

However, darling Sev, on feeling the stressed Mummy vibes when she got in from town this evening has leapt into action Batman style and baked a chocolate orange cake. Perhaps there was a silent distress call from me, a yellow Converse sign lit up the sky and she came out of the Sev Cave to help me in my hour of need. She brought my hefty slice to me with creme fraiche and slices of ripe pear.

Vive friends that bake!

Vive freinds that know how you are feeling almost before you do!

And a huge VIVE to Sev!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Still Life with Needles

My knitting projects in progress, a completed hat and Frank's insulin pens and needles.
On October 10th 2008, just after 5pm, my boy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
He was just 2 years old.
I had taken him to the doctor to get diabetes ruled out. He had been demanding water all day and right through the night and we were exhausted getting up so frequently to fill his little sippy cups. He was also soaking through his nappies in about half an hour. The washing machine was on constantly. Bedding was changed twice a night and we were kind of lurching from day to day not really registering that our routine was abnormal and our child was ill.
When Doctor Tarala pricked his finger and tested the drop of blood that came out he registered at 19.4. She didn't say anything but just looked over at the nurse, Louise, whom I had known through friends for years. Louise looked at me and just said "Sorry, Julie". I cried immediately. Quiet tears so as not to frighten Frank. Dr. Tarala called the children's ward there and then and booked a bed for us. We went home for dinner, packed a bag and went straight to the hospital.
Shortly after that I took up knitting again. Frank was into CBeebies for half an hour of an evening and I needed something to occupy my hands then and during other hospital and doctor appointments. Knitting helped me so much at the time to have a focus other than diabetes. It went some way to quieting the white noise in my head. It still provides such solace as I tap into a creativity I remember having as a teenager. I have even started sewing again and will blog my completed projects soon.
So, there are needles and needles and needles in my house. Some are for relaxing and some are used to keep my baby alive.
I love them all.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Bench Monday - Vintage Style

I spent a long time today pondering what my take on Bench Monday should be. Mondays are my night out with my fab friend, Lynne. I go to her place in the van, park up and we then walk into town for tea and talk at the cafe in the cinema. It's always such fun and much cheaper than therapy. The world gets put to rights, there is some moaning and we talk about ourselves, our shrivelling careers and child rearing philosophies.

This evening one of my moans was that it costs so much to order anything from etsy that I would have needed to pay 23 dollars to have a felted gnome for the nature table. It is, I have to admit, not top of my things to moan about list but Lynne immediately sensed the importance of a gnomeless nature table and offered me one that she has. I accepted and am very grateful.
It got me to thinking about gnomes in general and about the hat my sister gave us when Frank was born and that he wore on our trip his first Autumn. People in Denmark kept commenting on his resemblance to a gnome.

So, Bench Monday : Vintage Style offers you Frank the Gnome (and he's on a bench!).

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The eyes of a child

Frank has been developing an interest in having a go with the camera especially since I have been using it a lot more for the blog. Yesterday we went to the wonderful Beth Chatto Gardens and I took some photos of some red hot pokers. Frank then wanted to do the same. His picture made them loom so much more. I need to take the time to see the world through is eyes and to understand that his basic sensory experiences are so different to mine. For starters they start about three feet below mine!
And then today, at half three, I was so tired having been awake since 6am ,plus woken in mutant ninja toddler style to boot, and lying on the big bed with him upstairs reading Dr. Dog and Roary the Racing Car that my eyes closed for a moment and he was let loose with my camera. Budd joined us after a while and Frank managed to notch up 115 shots. The best are here.
His blood sugar as been stabilising after the last few days of cold and fever and his energy is soaring. He has his appetite back and as I write this I can hear him downstairs ordering his Daddy around whilst Sev chops veg.
And me? I am sitting in bed writing this. A stolen half hour. The best kind. Thanks Budd.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Love, love, love

I just love this season.

We have been foraging and getting harvest goodies from all kinds of people doing the same. Yesterday Sev, Frank and I shelled a mass of wet walnuts and found these beauties among them.

Have you been foraging for anything this season?